“Competition brings about the best in products but the worst in people.” — Faqimi Fauzi
Great efforts are being made, from varying angles, to break and unbundle the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, ahead of the 2023 polls. The reasons are apparent: six months to the general elections, the Labour Party has changed the narrative in the nation’s political discourse in many ways.
Though he entered the presidential race with his issue-driven messages that resonated with the people, attempts by his opponents to bring him down have made him the issue and he now dominates the conversation in the political space. All the discussions now are about Obi, either being eulogised for changing the narration or being knocked by those who are uncomfortable with his enviable positioning.
At first, he was taken for granted as a political paperweight who had no base and was not likely to win an election. But when it became obvious that he can win even without his so-called structure, detractors changed their strategy of trying to remove the public view of him from his insightful messages. As a result, rather than set up structures to find a way of enhancing the image of their candidates if they were enhanceable, promote their positives if there were any, what you see is Obi’s key opponents exerting their energies and resources trying to bring him down. Obi’s opponents have dug deep into his past in search of what to hold on to but are yet to find anything.
In the absence of incriminating things to use against Obi, attack dogs and guerilla journalists have been hired to ensure that enough dirty noise is created around him to make him lose focus and be mislabelled. Initially, the game was to write him off as a politician of little consequence, a political irrelevant, who nobody should lose sleep over. All kinds of names, internet politicians, social media giants, structure=less and political aberration were the nomenclatures attributed to him.
All that has changed. The fear of Obi has become the beginning of political wisdom for the competition. Those who wrote him off now swallow their words in the light of emerging realities on the ground. It is now common knowledge that it would be a huge misadventure to underrate Obi or take him for granted. Even those who love to hate him and cannot subject themselves to principles of lying are keeping mum while searching for a way to stop or discredit the new political wave in the system.
Following this development, the presidential ticket holders of the two key political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and the main opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, have set up formidable research teams ostensibly to further dig deep and fish out dirt in Obi’s political cupboard to use against him. The objective is to bring down this political racing animal in the system and disorganise the Obidient political outfit that is gradually and steadily turning into a movement.
To these invertrate detractors, the task is gargantuan but achievable. But Obi, so sure of the terrain he was entering, had prepared himself for the journey and had declared his now famous “go and verify” template. This has made Obi the most verified and searched political personality in this dispensation. It’s perhaps in reaction to not finding the desired negative answers to their searches that have led to a series of mudslinging being thrown at him. The agenda now is to throw anything at him, if one doesn’t stick, another will, but he must be stopped at all costs.
To look good and be seen as doing their job well by their principals and Obi’s traducers, unprofessional writers, rather than report the outcome of their verification now resort to manufacturing humdrum just to distract and cause irritation.
After they say Obi’s name is not known anywhere in the North when the Makurdi million-man march happened and Kaduna was about to follow, they armed security to the teeth to stop them. When Governor Nasir El Rufai claimed Obi could not muster 200 followers in Kaduna, he had to mobilise over 200 security operatives to storm the gathering of the Obidients. When he alleged that Obi was playing the ethnic card and did not treat Northerners well when he governed Anambra State, Obi responded swiftly by listing top Northerners he worked with, including his ADC from Kano and six Police Commissioners all from the North. He challenged El Rufai to show evidence of working with one Igbo man, but he is yet to respond.
The latest from the El rufai camp on Obi is that Obi locked him up in a hotel when he went to Anambra State monitor a gubernatorial election. Obi as a candidate in the election would not have been that powerful to lock up a Governor, the security operatives, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, must have found the Kaduna Governor a security risk to free and fair poll in the State because of well known negative antecedents on elections and decided to restrict his movement. It is public knowledge that El rufai can be inimical to a free and fair election, given his bloodchilling threat about body bag threat against international election monitors. The frightened election observers had to steer clear of Kaduna State, a situation that paved way for electoral manipulations.
In another desperate effort to dent Obi’s towering image, they have come up with the idea that he sponsored the 2020 youth revolt in Nigeria against Police brutality, otherwise tagged #EndSARS. These curious and laughable allegations were targeted at distorting the massive youth support Obi enjoys across the federation.
After looking at Obi’s impeccable anti-corruption record, they sought to denigrate it by claiming that he invested Anambra State money in his family business. While the allegations looked attractive, they could not substantiate them. Therefore, they petered out as all marine tales do.
Whenever Obi goes out and his admirers crowd and hail him they look for how to rubbish it. If he goes to worship at church and his presence excites the congregation and the the church decides to show it, detractors accuse him of christianizing the campaign for political gains. He goes to the mosque to attend a solemn programme like a wedding and his supporters hail his arrival, they send attack dogs after him.
When none of these was yielding any desired results they thought they had found the killer punch, associating Obi with the separatist agitator group, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB. They had earlier photographed a young boy in Europe wearing the Biafra attire, and called him Obi’s son, but failed to substantiate it. Now they are struggling to hold him up as a huge backer of IPOB. But even in this, they could not establish the truth in it and it fizzled off as the other fairy tales.
Still searching uncertainty for a point against Obi and refusing to give up and acknowledge that indeed the man is unlike us, verifiable, clean, and incapable of any guile, they instead aim their diatribe at his recent visit to the Diasporas in Europe, America, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
The success recorded at the visit as shown by the social media became so discomforting and a source of unease for opponents. All efforts to harm Obi’s reputation enhanced by the Diaspora trip collapsed and increased their frustrations. They claimed that the tour was fundraising even when the motive and itinerary were earlier circulated on social media.
One thing is always clear, the armoury of falsehood never gets exhausted, but it hardly achieves its aim, especially when it’s uncovered and its agenda exposed beforehand. If the opponents had used the energy and resources they deploy in tooth-ccombing Obi’s cupboards in search of skeletons were to be used positively for themselves or their candidates, a better impact would have been recorded in their favour. But Obi’s opponents deserve some sympathy knowing the inequality in their reputations and the Herculean task of trying to catch up which is akin to chasing the wind.
What is clear and refreshing to know, however, is that even before entering the political terrain, Obi knows that he competes with desperadoes, political bandits who could go to any length to reach their goals. He is not fooling himself to think that being right is all that is needed to reach the height. He equally agrees with an American entrepreneur Marshal Field that “Goodwill is the only asset that competition cannot undersell or destroy.”
May God help us.